The conflict between Hamas and Israel has been marred by a deluge of disinformation, with social media platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), Meta, and Telegram becoming breeding grounds for fake news and manipulated content.
From video game clips falsely portraying an Israeli helicopter being shot down to fictitious accounts impersonating reputable news sources, these platforms have become hotbeds for the spread of deceptive information. Elon Musk, the owner of X, promoted accounts spreading virulent disinformation, with one account, @sentdefender, described as “absolutely poisonous.” Despite some content removal efforts, purveyors of disinformation like @sentdefender continue to operate freely on these platforms.
As disinformation continues to proliferate, X has announced changes to its public interest policy and an increased focus on enforcing rules and protecting the conversation on the platform.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton has cautioned Musk about X’s role in spreading illegal content and disinformation, citing the EU’s Digital Services Act, which mandates the removal of illegal content by large online platforms. The challenge of addressing disinformation is further compounded by the use of video game and recycled news footage to promote falsehoods about the conflict. Dina Sadek, a Middle East research fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR), highlighted the role of Telegram in disseminating disinformation due to its messaging capabilities, which enable the rapid spread of content.
The spread of disinformation amid the Israel-Hamas conflict is likely to intensify in the coming weeks, with Stanford disinformation scholar Herb Lin predicting an escalation in the propaganda war. The ability of disinformation purveyors to react swiftly to events and dominate messaging, particularly in the context of external influences, raises significant concerns about the impact of false narratives on the ongoing conflict.